When a book you love is adapted for television, the excitement is always tinged with anxiety. Excitement, because the story that speaks to you is about to be shared with a whole new group of people. Anxiety, because the characters you know intimately might not be the ones who end up on screen.
Enter 13 Reasons Why, Netflix’s new series based on the bestselling YA novel by Jay Asher.
This is a story that readers can’t help but hold close. An American teen, Clay Jensen, arrives home from school one day to find a box of cassette tapes on his doorstep. The tapes are from Hannah Baker, a girl in his class. A girl who had tragically died by suicide just weeks earlier.
In the Netflix series, 20-year-old newcomer Katherine Langford plays Hannah, while Prison Break and Let Me In actor Dylan Minnette stars as Clay. Did they feel the pressure of stepping in to these roles?
Of course they did. Who wouldn’t.
“The book is so huge,” Langford tells RadioTimes.com ahead of the series launch. “I hadn’t read [it] prior; I think if I had I probably would have put a lot more pressure on myself because it’s a book that so many people identify with and love and are protective of, which makes total sense.”
Dylan Minnette agrees: “There’s definitely a sort of pressure, because people are so attached to the stories and the characters. I will say, particularly in Clay’s case, [in the book] he listens in one night to all the tapes. In the show he listens to the tapes in the course of like a week-and-a-half, two weeks. There’s a lot more to Clay in the show than in the book.”
That’s not to say he’s not nervously aware of just how big a deal this series is.
“Last week I was mini-golfing with a friend back home,” Minnette says. “The girl who was giving us our golf clubs was like, ‘You’re going to be in 13 Reasons Why?’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s so funny.’ She was like, ‘Oh that’s cool. Don’t screw it up.’ I was like, ‘Thank you, I won’t!’”
13 Reasons Why: watch the full video interview below
It’s not just the actors who are aware of having to do justice to the book: screenwriter Brian Yorkey has talked about how he’s tried to deal with the “tremendous responsibility” of bringing the story to the small screen, while executive producer Selena Gomez has spoken frankly about how the issues explored in the series – depression, teenage suicide, bullying – spoke directly to her.
“I was actually going through a really difficult time when they started production,” the singer and star has said. “I went away for 90 days, and I actually met tons of kids in this place that we’re talking about a lot of the issues that these characters are experiencing.”
Langford and Minnette say that when Gomez did join them on set for the final day of shooting, it was an emotional moment.
“She showed up at the end for the last episode when she could be there, and it felt like she had been there the whole time,” Minnette says.
Langford agrees: “This TV series has been in the making for such a long time, and I feel really lucky to have come across it at the exact time that I did. Mandy [Teefey, Selena Gomez’s mother] and Selena, this project is in such good hands with the both of them. They both had the best intentions for this series.”
13 Reasons Why is released on Netflix UK on Friday 31st March